Eyes on the Prize, Hip Deep in Muck

Spent Barley In Hand
At Invest NYC SDG, we are nothing if not practical. Every day, we bring together investors, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and city and state officials to analyze and launch real businesses. These projects will help lay the foundation of a new, sustainable urban economy, bringing closer to reality a vision of the city-that-might-be. 

The road to this idealistic vision runs right through an enormous pile of trash, which NYC produces in gargantuan quantities. Six million tons a year, to be exact. The city has committed to sending zero waste to landfills by 2030. To do this, we’ll have to find an economical use for every single ounce of this stuff. And as Paul Hawken said, “An enduring and true economy does not create waste that is not useful.”

Given the urgency of New York City’s zero-waste commitment, we are grateful that Circular City Week, launched last year in NYC, is back for another run next week, March 16 through 22. A fantastic range of events are planned, including many that are free, in this “open collaborative festival” for an urban circular economy. As of this writing, the event has not (yet) been postponed. Check here for events and updates.

We’ve been especially captivated by the uses for food “waste” that normally gets sent to a landfill, including:
  • All kinds of uses for imperfect (ugly) produce: direct-to-consumer sales, dried snacks, frozen smoothie mixes, snack chips, broths and sauces;
  • Vegan “leather” made from citrus peels;
  • Beer and vodka made from unsold baked goods;
  • Snack bars and barley flour made with spent grain from the craft beer brewing process;
  • Flour made from the soybean pulp leftover from soy milk production;
  • Tea from the leaves of the coffee plant,
  • Mushroom-growing medium made from spent coffee grounds.
And that’s just the beginning (check out the Upcycled Food Association). We were delighted by a recent article in The Guardian about Gail’s, a chain of British bakeries that makes all kinds of creative dishes using day-old bread, croissants, and crumpets as ingredients, instead of throwing them away. They’ve been doing it for years and expanding their “waste menu,” so obviously the market approves!